The Impact of Falling Objects: Legal Rights and Compensation

Man with both hands on head, looking straight at the camera.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS), approximately 2.8 million workers are injured on the job each year, and more than 5,000 are killed. Many of these accidents are caused by falling objects. In fact, the United States Department of Labor has labeled falling objects as one of construction’s “fatal four” types of accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured by a falling object at a work site, you should be aware of your legal rights and options. Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter is dedicated to getting accident victims the compensation they deserve. To schedule a free case evaluation, call 833-LEGALGA today.

Falling Object Injuries on Work Sites

Whenever work is being done on multiple levels, there is always the risk that debris will fall or objects will be dropped. Employers have a duty under OSHA regulations to maintain a safe work site and ensure that workers have the proper protective gear. For example, OSHA Standard 1910.219 provides a long list of requirements to guard against handheld machinery used in overhead work causing injury. While, OSHA Standard 1917.112 requires the use of toeboards around edges of walkways to prevent objects from rolling off and injuring people below. Workers have a right to request an OSHA safety inspection if they feel conditions are unsafe, and employers are forbidden from retaliating against workers that make such a request. Ultimately, however, for workers covered by Georgia’s Workers Compensation Law, a determination of fault is ultimately irrelevant in most cases. This is because Georgia workers automatically receive benefits when they are injured on the job, regardless of who is at fault. However, compensation is also limited.

Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Law

Workers’ compensation functions by providing workers injured on the job with automatic compensation for harm and with benefits if they become disabled. Workers’ compensation insurance also provides benefits to dependents if a worker dies as a result of a job-related injury. The tradeoff, however, is that workers are prohibited from bringing lawsuits against employers (or co-workers) if they suffer harm in the course and scope of their employment. Determining whether workers’ compensation applies is often complicated. In the State of Georgia, any employer with three or more employees is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. When jobs utilize contractors and subcontractors, it is often unclear at first whether a particular worker will be covered by the law. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Williams Elleby, help worksite accident victims navigate the law so that their rights are protected.

Non-Worker Victims of Harm

Non-workers are not covered by Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Law. For instance, if a pedestrian strolling past a construction site is struck by a falling object, she is free to bring a negligence claim against the party or parties responsible for dropping the object. She could also bring a premises liability claim against the owner of the property where the injury occurred.

Premises Liability vs Negligence: Who is Responsible

When a non-worker is injured by a falling object, she can bring a claim against any responsible parties. Many times, the person who drops the object is not the owner of the property where the injury occurs. In this situation, an injured party could have claims against both the person who dropped the object as well as the property owner. First, the claim against the person who dropped the tool would be a simple negligence claim. In pursuing this claim, a skilled attorney would examine whether the person who dropped the tool took reasonable precautions to guard against dropping the object. The attorney could look to OSHA standards that might apply to the jobsite in question. For instance, OSHA Regulations require that construction sites employee a number of fall protection measures when erecting or working on scaffolding.  The attorney could then analyze whether the negligent party properly complied with the regulations to show that the worker did not act reasonably while completing work at the site. Examples of Overhead Work Protection Measures:
  • OSHA Standard 1926.105 requires the use of overhead safety netting when work is completed more than 25 feet above the ground.
  • OSHA Standard 1910.145 requires the use of warning signs to warn of the risk associated with falling objects on a job site.
  • OSHA Standard 1917-112(d) requires the use of toeboards, or raised edges, to prevent items from rolling off of the edge while working overhead.
Second, there could be a premises liability claim against the owner of the property where the injury occurred. Premises liability claims can be brought when property owners are at fault for failing to keep dangerous conditions off their property. O.C.G.A § 51-3-1 provides that a landowner must take reasonable steps to keep its premises safe. Again, a skilled attorney could use the OSHA Regulations to show that the landowner was aware that work was taking place and failed to ensure that the proper safety protocols were met to prevent injury to people walking below.

Damages in a Personal Injury Suit

The final step in the process is determining the dollar amount of the injured person’s damages. Georgia personal injury law is intended to fully compensate victims for their harm. Compensation from a personal injury lawsuit, also called damages, is intended to pay for things like medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In cases where a defendant exhibited intentional or reckless conduct, punitive damages may be available. However, injury claims covered by the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Law will be strictly limited to the compensation permitted under that law.  Georgia Worker’s Compensation Law provides a specific award schedule that dictates how much a worker’s injury is worth. However, when a non-worker is injured, the measure of damages is more fluid. A skilled attorney can utilize the injured party’s medical bills, along with evidence of missed time from work, and general pain and suffering to advocate for a more accurate measure of damages. The attorney is able to make specific arguments about how long it took for the injured party to recover. The length of recovery is important as the attorney can attached a dollar amount to the time spend recovering. Attorneys also rely on witness testimony and other evidence to paint a vivid picture of how the injury affected the injured party. This provides the jury with a detailed perspective of the injury and the suffering it caused.

For More Information, Contact Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter

Worksite accidents can be devastating, particularly when caused by falling objects. Victims need the support of qualified and experienced legal counsel on their side. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter work hard to get accident victims the compensation they deserve. Located in Kennesaw, Georgia, Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter serves clients throughout the State of Georgia. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury at a work site due to a falling object, the attorneys at Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter can help you understand what possible claims you may have and work to get you the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call (833-534-2542) today.

Georgia Slip & Falls: What To Do If You Slip & Fall On Ice Or Snow

Woman slips and falls on an icy driveway.

According to the CDC, unintentional falls are the leading cause of nonfatal emergency department visits in the United States. When temperatures drop, the risk of slip and fall incidents increases dramatically. Colder weather means that Georgians will encounter more icy staircases and frozen puddles on sidewalks. This increased risk poses potential legal challenges for property owners and victims alike. In this post, we will explore the laws surrounding slip and fall incidents in Georgia due to icy conditions.

Premises Liability in Georgia:

To determine who is responsible for a slip and fall on ice, we must first understand the basics of Georgia premises liability law. Georgia law holds landowners responsible for maintaining safe conditions on their premises. O.C.G.A §51-3-1 states that an owner of land who invites people onto their property must exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe. This means that property owners should take reasonable actions to guard against danger on their property.

Types of Visitors:

However, the steps an owner must take depends on the status of the injured person at the time of the injury. The law places different duties on a landowner depending on the category of person who is injured. When you walk onto someone else’s property, you are either an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser.

  1. An invitee is a person who is invited onto the property by the owner for both parties’ benefit. An example of an invitee is a customer entering a business to make a purchase.
  2. A licensee is a person on a property solely for her own interest. For example, Georgia law considers a social guest to be a licensee. See Stanton v. Griffin,361 Ga. App 205 (2021).
  3. Finally, a trespasser is a person who enters another’s property without permission.  Interestingly, a person can be considered a trespasser even if they enter another’s property accidentally. See Crosby v. Savannah Electric Co., 114 Ga. App. 193 (1966).

Duty to Visitors:

Georgia law provides different rules for landowners depending on the type of visitor.  A landowner owes a duty of ordinary care to an invitee. See O.C.G.A §51-3-1. This means that a landowner must take reasonable steps to make sure his property is safe for any invitee that comes onto the property.

However, a landowner owes a lesser duty to a licensee. A landowner must not injure a licensee willfully or wantonly. Stanton v. Griffin,361 Ga. App 205 (2021). In other words, the owner is only liable to a licensee if he intentionally injures the guest or acts in an extremely reckless manner.

Finally, a landowner owes no duty at all to a trespasser. See Crosby v. Savannah Electric Co., 114 Ga. App. 193 (1966). Therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible, for a trespasser to recover for an injury sustained on someone else’s property.

Comparative Negligence:

We must also consider whether the injured party contributed to her injury. Georgia recognizes the doctrine of comparative negligence. This allows a jury to consider whether the plaintiff did anything wrong to contribute to the injury. The jury can then assign a percentage of blame to either party depending on how much each party contributed to the injury. See Clark v. Rush, 312 Ga. App. 333 (2011). Therefore, if the injured party is found to be partially at fault for not taking reasonable precautions, their recovery may be diminished.

Bringing a Claim for a Slip & Fall on Ice:

Now that we understand the law, let’s discuss how it applies to a slip and fall on ice. Georgia law says that property owners must take appropriate steps to make their property safe. Negligence on the property owner may arise if they fail to:

  1. Monitor weather conditions: Property owners should stay informed about weather forecasts, especially in the winter months, and take preemptive measures to address potential ice accumulation.
  2. Remove ice promptly: If ice does accumulate, property owners are expected to promptly remove or mitigate the hazard. This may involve salting walkways, clearing snow, or posting warning signs.
  3. Warn visitors: In situations where the removal of ice is not immediately feasible, property owners must adequately warn visitors about the hazardous conditions.

Failure to take these reasonable steps could result in the property owner being held responsible for injuries that occur when someone falls. However, what is reasonable depends on the status of the person who was injured:

  1. For an invitee, the property owner could be at fault for simply failing to recognize that the ice formed and failing to take steps to remove it.
  2. However, a licenseewould not be able to recover unless she could show that the property owner intentionally put water on the sidewalk to cause the fall.
  3. Finally, a trespasser likely would not have a claim for injury no matter the actions of the property owner.

After determining whether the property owner acted reasonably under the circumstances, we must also determine whether the injured party acted reasonably. In other words, did she do anything that contributed to her injury:

  1. Did she recognize that there was ice on the sidewalk and decide to walk on it anyway?
  2. Did she see a sign warning not to enter due to ice and enter anyway?
  3. Was she distracted and not paying attention to her surroundings, which caused her to slip?

These are just a few examples of situations that could cause a jury to assign fault to the injured party and lower the amount she would recover based on Georgia’s comparative negligence rule.

Proving Liability:

To successfully pursue a slip and fall claim in Georgia, the injured party must establish the following elements:

  1. Duty of care: The property owner owed a duty of care to the visitor.
  2. Breach of duty: The property owner failed to meet the standard of care by neglecting to address the icy conditions.
  3. Causation: The breach of duty directly caused the slip and fall incident and subsequent injuries.
  4. Damages: The victim suffered measurable damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering.

We work through the invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser analysis to establish the duty of care that the property owner owed to the injured party. This involves asking questions to determine why the injured party was on the property at the time of the fall so that we can determine which category the person falls into. Once we know whether the injured party is an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser we are able to determine the duty owed.

Subsequently, to determine whether the property owner breached her duty we examine the facts of the incident to determine whether the property owner acted with the level of care required under the duty analysis. For example, in the case of an invitee, we would try to determine how the hazard came to be on the property and whether the property owner took reasonable steps to protect against the hazard.

The next step is to determine causation. This simply means, did the hazard (the ice on the sidewalk) cause the injuries that the injured party is complaining of. Sometimes, this is very straightforward- a person slips on ice, falls, and breaks her arm. It is easy to understand that the fall caused the broken arm. However, in other situations, it is more complicated. For example, a person slips and falls on ice. Four days later, he starts having back pain. A year after that he has back surgery. In this situation, it takes months of examining medical records and talking with doctors to determine whether the fall on the ice caused the need for back surgery.

Finally, we examine the extent of the injury caused, the amount of medical bills incurred, any lost wages from missing time from work, and the overall pain and suffering to determine the total amount of damages caused by the fall. The damages calculation involves adding up all the losses the plaintiff sustained to determine the full value of the case.

Conclusion:

Navigating slip and fall incidents in Georgia resulting from icy conditions requires a careful examination of the circumstances and a thorough understanding of premises liability laws. If you find yourself in such a situation, seeking legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney can be crucial in ensuring your rights are protected and justice is served. Call Williams Elleby Howard & Easter at 833-534-2542.  Be sure to check out our YouTube channel for our video on this topic and many more topics.